She held shotgun on police after killing brother, report says

By Donovan Slack and Michael Rezendes
Globe Staff / February 17, 2010

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Amy Bishop was crouched behind a parked car, gripping a pump-action shotgun with one shell in the chamber and another in her pocket. Workers at a nearby business were yelling, “There’s a girl with a gun!’’ and running away.

A police officer approached cautiously, holding his pistol behind his leg as he tried to reason with the wild-eyed 21-year-old. But Bishop would not budge.

“Miss Bishop seemed frightened, disoriented, and confused, but she kept both her hands on the shotgun at all times,’’ the officer wrote in a police report. “She wouldn’t drop the gun.’’

It wasn’t until another officer sneaked up behind her that Bishop was finally handcuffed and taken to the Braintree police station that December day in 1986.

Bishop was not charged in the events of that day, which began with the shooting death of her brother and was followed by her attempt to hold up an auto dealership and her bid to resist arrest.

Now, she is a 45-year-old biology professor accused of gunning down three colleagues in Alabama last week, and prosecutors here in Massachusetts are taking another look at the incidents in Braintree in 1986.

They concluded yesterday that there had been probable cause to charge her in the decades-old case, if not in the death of her brother, which was deemed accidental, then for her actions afterward.

The reports prosecutors used to make the determination - which included statements that Bishop, her mother, and her father made to Braintree police - were released publicly for the first time yesterday and paint a vivid portrait of a harrowing series of events that chilly December day.

In some respects it seemed like a typical Saturday. Amy’s mother, Judy, left the house at about 7 a.m. to visit a nearby stable, while her husband and two children remained behind.

An unsettling incident then marred the domestic scene: Samuel, Amy’s father, said he had a disagreement with Amy over a comment she made, the nature of which has never been disclosed.

He then left the house at about 11:30 a.m. to do some shopping at the South Shore Mall, leaving Amy in her room while her brother, Seth, washed Samuel’s car, according to the police reports.

Amy ventured into her parents’ bedroom, where she found her father’s shotgun lying on a chest of drawers and shells for the gun resting on a bureau.

While Amy told police about the “spat’’ she had with her father, she insisted she went to her parents’ room for the shotgun because she was worried about a possible robbery, as the house had been burglarized about a year earlier.

After returning to her room, Amy loaded the gun, although she had never been trained to use the weapon. And when she tried to unload it, she told police, the gun went off, putting a hole in her bedroom wall, which she attempted to conceal with a book cover and a metal Band-Aid box later found by police.

Shortly before the gun went off in Amy’s room, her mother returned from the stable with lunch in mind. Discovering there was little to eat, Seth went out shopping and returned with the makings of a family meal.

He dropped the groceries in the family kitchen, moved into the living room to turn on the television, and returned to the kitchen just as Amy came downstairs carrying the shotgun.

Amy told police she went downstairs to ask Seth for help unloading it. Seth and his father were members of a local gun club and Seth had been trained to use the weapon. And upon entering the kitchen, Amy said, Seth told her to point the gun up.

When she did, she was distracted by something her mother said - perhaps her mother telling her not to point it at anyone - and the gun went off a second time, leaving her brother bleeding to death on the family’s kitchen floor, the reports said.

There were some discrepancies in the accounts Amy and her mother gave police. Amy said she asked Seth for help unloading the gun, for instance, while her mother said Amy asked her for help. But both accounts end with her shooting her brother in the chest.

Amy ran from the house, gripping the shotgun. She told police that “she thought she had dropped the gun when she ran.’’

But that was hardly the case, according to police reports.

Minutes later, workers discovered her in a stairway at the Dave Dinger Ford dealership. Thomas Pettigrew and Jeff Doyle said Amy pointed the shotgun at them and told them she wanted a car and a set of keys. She kept her weapon trained on them and backed out of the shop onto a nearby street.

Braintree police found her crouched behind a parked car, gripping the pump-action shotgun.